Page images

and wonders which were performed to prove the truth of his revelarions in the Gospel, is christianity believed, and has been since it first commenced; which are aided by the providences of God, by all the evils, and calamities of this life, and death itself, in being made practical. It is certainly true, that the conduct of men, and nations, is according to their opinions, and belief. The Shakers abandon matrimony, because they think it a sin to marry. Some of the Eastern idolaters stand in the most painful positions, for hours, and days together, in order to appease their deities. When all the diversity of tenets, inspirations, revelations, &c. &c. which are believed by polytheists, and errorists of every description, amongst the orders of christian heretics, and even those who call themselves orthodox, are brought together, and, in their turn, claim a pre-eminence on the score of their divinity, how is the difference to be settled? They all have their feelings, and imaginations, and all evince an equal degree of earnestness in their belief, and transports in their worship. Now, I ask, how this confusion is to be reduced to order, and the truth established? And how are those fine feelings to be tested, and their falsehood detected, and corrected? I answer, by truth. But, I am asked, what is truth? The word of God. How is it known to be the word of God? I answer, by the fact that it teaches us the knowledge of spiritual things, otherwise not known, and which are supported by miracles, which is an evidence divine, and not claimed by any other religion. It also, upon the authority of God, assures the believer that he shall have a happy immortality, &c. &c. After all that has been, or can be said about immediate operations, every calm minded christian will, if called upon, refer to its evidences: for a proof of the truth of his faith. The effects of faith, misapprehended, are what have produced so much confusion. The religious affections, which are its sweets, and perfectión— its joys, and comforts, are misplaced, and, on that account, misnamed. Instead of being the effects of the mind exercised by faith upon the glorious prospects, and promises which are opened to the view of the believer, and which he enjoys through faith, and by anticipation, they are made the cause. A momentary impulse of joy arising in the mind, is

said to be the effulgence of the Spirit by immediate illuminations. The Shakers have these in great excess, even almost to phrenzy. It is strange, surpassingly strange, that every species of erroneous religion should have its ecstasies; every pursuit of an agreeable nature, its occasional joys, arising from the nature, and constitution of the human mind; and that the true Christian religion, or the mind exercised by it, should be denied them! And why are they denied it? If error, which is confused, and false, excite the influence of passion, and imagination, joys, and ecstasies; why should the christian religion, which presents to the believer all that is great, and good; all that is desirable, and beatific; all that can ennoble, and perfect our nature, be refused the power of exciting joy, and happiness, without immediate agencies? I again repeat, that it is ignorance of the human mind, which is the foundation of all this absurdity, and which leads to so much distraction, and error in what are called revivals of religion. Imagination, and passion are the governing principles, instead of the understanding, the will, and the affections. The grace of God is misunderstood, and reproached by such ideas, and common sense is banished from the dominions of religion. The will, and affections will always be right, if they are subservient to the controul, and direction of a rightly informed judgment; consisting in the apprehension of truth by its evidence, and the agreement, and harmony of the parts which compose it. An understanding thus enlightened, and a judgment thus formed, will be ever sedate, tranquil, and discriminating, but not to the exclusion of religious joy; so far from that, they necessarily produce the most exalted joy which can possibly be derived from religion. The will, and affections, all the intellectual, and moral powers of our nature, are refined, and sublimated, by the contemplation, and enjoyment of the objects of the christian's faith; which are the most glorious, grand, and interesting, that can employ the attention, or felicitate the intelligent soul.

The doctrine of human depravity, as explained by some, is the foundation stone upon which is built the supposed necessity of the immediate agencies of the Spirit, and which forms the strongest battery against what I have written. I

ask, in what does human depravity consist? I answer, that it consists in apostacy from God, and in devotion to the objects of time, and sense, which administer to the animal appetites, desires, passions, &c. Without the revelations of God, since he withdrew from man in consequence of transgression, it is impossible that he could have any other objects of contemplation, pursuit, and interest, than those of an earthly, sensual kind; there would be a natural, intellectual, and moral necessity, for being thus restricted in desire, and enjoyment. This necessity is removed by the revelations of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In that proclamation of grace, spiritual things are revealed of an infinitely important nature. But that communication is not of such a nature, as to supersede the necessity of employing the powers of the mind in the use of the means, in attaining the knowledge, and belief of the things which it publishes, and by which alone spiritual things can be discerned, believed, and by faith enjoyed. No person is born with spiritual ideas. They are acquired from the word of God as the mean he has established for that purpose-they are propagated, from one mind to another, through that medium. To effect the end of spiritual instruction, God has established the government of the parent over the child, and imposed the giving of that instruction as a duty. He has also ordained the ministry for the same purpose. No person is born with the knowl edge of letters; and without learning them by instruction or imitation, he never could know them: there is neither a natural, intellectual, or moral necessity, for a person who is born with common capacity continuing ignorant of them in a country where they are known.-So it is with regard to the Gospel. But I am told, that the spiritual knowledge derived by instruction, is head knowledge. I answer, that it is through the head that all knowledge comes. The knowledge obtained from the word of God is not less the knowledge taught by God's Spirit, or less spiritual, than if it was imparted by immediate revelation; nor is it less profitable on that account for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness. 2 Tim. 3. 16. In order, however, that it should produce these effects, it must be taught, and learnt as it is in truth the word of God.

Human depravity does not consist in the mere existence of appetite. None of the appetites, and affections belonging to human nature, are evil in themselves, A little reflection` will satisfy the attentive inquirer, that they are all admirably calculated to promote the welfare, both of the individual, and of the species. The evil only takes place when the appetite, &c. are insubordinate to the law of God; when dia rected to an improper object; or cherished in an undue degree. It is this which in scripture is aptly styled inordinate affection. The design of the Gospel upon the world of mankind, in their religious, social, and individual relations, is to produce the subordination of appetite, &c. to the will of God, by directing the mind to, and employing the affections upon their proper objects.

To assert that the depravity of man is so great as to preclude the belief of the Gospel and its effects, when exhibited in its proper character, and evidence, aided by the providential circumstances connected with, and the sorrows incidental to man, is not less absurd, than to declare that a child is too ignorant to be taught the alphabet; that a government is too oppressive to be reformed, or rectified-that a fever is too high to be susceptible of the influence of the skill of a physician; or that the absence of light produces such an entire darkness or want of vision, as not to be removable by its presence. The very design of the Gospel is to remove, and remedy, as A MEAN, all the evils, and infilicities which are consequential upon apostacy.

I must needs think that the objection taken to the suitableness of the Gospel as a mental mean of divine appointment, for the obviation of the evils incidental to human depravity, without those immediate agencies, proceed from a quite different source than just apprehensions of the intrinsic nature of human depravity itself. They are necessary only for the support of erroneous theories. and opinions; by which the practical character, and usefulness of the Gospel are destroyed. Were those erroneous opinions correct, it would be impossible, from the very nature, and necessity of things, for man ever to be civilized, more than the beasts of the forest, without miracles, of an immediate physical nature, in changing the organic texture of the body, so as to

destroy the animal appetites, desires, &c. and, by immedi ate revelations, to direct the conduct.

All the information which those misconceived theories, and erroneous explanations supply to the understanding; and all the conjectures to which they prompt the ingenuity of the mind, leave it, if not instructed from the scriptures themselves, to meet the real Christain religion, when disclosed, as a thing of which it had no idea or recognition except by its name as a wonderful novelty. How little could it be expected from their mystical glimpses, to find, that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is at this moment the actual, and sole

conemy, by the principles and provisions of which, civilization is effected; savage nature is ameliorated; and social order, and individual happiness are secured: by the laws and requisitions of which, we shall be judged; which have declared the relations of man with his creator, and specified the exclusive ground in legible and intelligible terms of acceptance; and which is therefore of infinite consequence, as fixing the entire theory of the condition and destinies of man; or the final principles to which all theories, sentiments, and opinions are so constantly required to be brought into obedience.

It is objected, that I shut the door against, or make no provision for infants, idiots, the heathen, &c. and also restrain or limit the grace and sovereignty of God. I answer, that my opinions direct me to leave infants, idiots, the heathen, &c. with their maker, in the confidence that God will do right, who acts independent of human plans, and without regard to human devices. If it is consistent with justice and mercy to save them through Jesus Christ, of whom they have never heard, my heart will say amen; and it will not be repugnant to any theory which I have formed upon the subject. I attach no meritorious worth to any thing that man can do, even in the exercise of faith, to merit heaven. Salvation, and all the blessings we enjoy, are the free gift of God; they are bestowed graciously on account of Jesus Christ. I cannot see how the sovereignty of God can be introduced as an exception to any thing that I have said. The sovereignty of God, is as much manifested in the economy of his grace, as revealed through Jesus

« PreviousContinue »